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‘We need our deposits back’: Porter Davis owners protest about builder’s collapse

Anil Venul (centre) is overcome with emotion at a protest over the collapse of builder Porter Davis.

Anil Venul (centre) is overcome with emotion at a protest over the collapse of builder Porter Davis. Photo: AAP

Father of two Anil Vemula dreams of living in a house his family loves, but that has never seemed further away after the collapse of home builder Porter Davis.

Mr Vemula says he made sacrifices for three years to save up a deposit of $33,000 for a home in Tarneit in Melbourne’s west but has no idea if he’ll ever see that money again.

“We don’t know what to do now,” Mr Vemula said as he choked back tears outside Victoria’s Parliament on Sunday.

“We need help. We need our deposits back.”

Mr Vemula and dozens of other customers staged a protest on Sunday describing how their lives have been upended since the company went into liquidation last month, affecting about 1700 builds in Victoria and Queensland.

Protest organiser Mike Tarno estimates 800 families have lost on average between $30,000 to $50,000 and said many were left without insurance.

He is calling on the state government to set up a fund to support those families in the upcoming May budget and he wants better building regulations.

Many say they need financial and legal assistance to help them navigate their next steps, get their deposits back and gain access to plans.

“A lot of us are afraid to build now. It’s just not safe to build in Victoria,” Mr Tarno said.

Father Magan Sarna uses a wheelchair after being diagnosed with an auto-immune condition in 2020 and planned to build a two-bedroom Porter Davis home as motivation to keep up with his recovery.

The shift worker says it’s now painful for him to work so he is concerned about how his family will be able to save another deposit.

“Interest rates have gone so high, everything’s so expensive and it’s almost impossible to start saving again,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he would make announcements about support for impacted customers in the future and was prepared to change rules so a similar situation did not happen again.

“If there’s weaknesses in the system, of course, then we stand ready to make those changes but you’ve got to work out what’s happened first,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

“There are enough reports, I think, for us all to be very, very concerned that just what Porter Davis has been up to when it comes to baiting customers with cut-price contracts they knew they would not be able to fulfil.”

The Victorian Building Authority is now investigating whether Porter Davis may have breached any laws.

Liquidators Grant Thornton confirmed on Friday that more than 80 builders have applied to complete the company’s unfinished homes, with at least 15 having the scale and capability to do the work.

“Customers are not obliged to engage one of these builders to complete their home build, however you may consider contacting one of these builders directly to discuss how they can assist you,” the liquidators told customers in a letter.

Protest organisers say they will continue to stage demonstrations until the government steps in.

-AAP

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